Raised on her grandmother’s tales of late Victorian London’s Limehouse, it’s little wonder that author Kate Griffin has been seduced by this historic area’s dark mysteries.
Kitty Peck and the Daughter of Sorrow is the third book in Griffin’s extraordinarily gritty but exhilarating debut crime series set in the murkiest and most brutal corners of the East End in the last decades of Queen Victoria’s reign.
These gripping, amazingly authentic adventures have their roots in the stories Griffin heard from her grandmother of life in a tough, cosmopolitan, hedonistic London where Jack the Ripper had stalked the streets just a decade earlier.
And after winning the Stylist/Faber crime writing competition for Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders, the first book in the series, Griffin and her feisty, fallible crime queen Kitty have been garnering a fast-growing army of adoring fans.
These hard-hitting gothic mysteries are brimming with atmosphere and breathtaking historical detail, and are the nearest a contemporary audience could get not just to the squalor and depravity of the city’s poorest quarters but to the people who lived there and plied their often dubious trades.
And no business could be more disreputable than the Paradise, the sprawling empire on the banks of the Thames left to 18-year-old Kitty by her ferocious grandmother, Lady Ginger; an inheritance that has turned out to be ‘a filthy tanner’s pit of every vice and crooked trade you had a name for, and some you most likely didn’t.’
Kitty, the innocent girl who was once merely a music hall seamstress, is now Lady Linnet, an infamous Baron of London, one of the great and secret Lords who control ‘every stinking foulness’ that drive the city like an engine.
And already her hands are ‘black as pitch.’ The thrum of evil from every corner of Limehouse is rising through the soles of her boots and jangling her nerves. Haunted by deeds too dark to divulge to anyone – not even her loyal right-hand man and protector Lucca Fratelli – Kitty is finding comfort in the opium dens.
Meanwhile, her music halls are falling apart, gin shipments are arriving watered down, obscene graffiti of Kitty is appearing all over the East End and her brother Joey, whose secret, complicated life is causing problems, has disappeared.
And it’s not only Kitty’s empire that is in danger… there are people who don’t like the ‘good fortune’ that has fallen her way.
Stalked by criminals intent on humiliation and destruction, Kitty finds a welcome helping hand from the engaging London Pictorial reporter Sam Collins as she fights for the future of everyone she cares for.
Griffin’s brilliant series shows no sign of flagging in the third outing for a bold, scandalous and increasingly assertive Kitty whose sharp-as-a-knife wits, street-wise common sense and extraordinary courage help to keep her one step ahead of those who would willingly have her guts for garters.
Here we find her battling dark forces under the pressures of a summer ‘as fierce as a Bengal tiger,’ the weight of shocking events in her past, and the guilty conscience that has led her to find escape inside the city’s sordid opium dens.
This is a cruel, dangerous and unforgiving world exquisitely and vibrantly imagined; a shadowy corner of the city brimming with terrifying undercurrents, visceral, vicious rivalries, and characters so real and vivid that you could almost reach out and touch them.
Brought to life through the light and shade of Kitty’s frank and fearless narrative voice, this is a series that delights on all levels… historically, dramatically, romantically and visually.
Roll on Kitty’s next foray into the dark side…
(Faber, paperback, £7.99)